Left to my own devices, I don’t just see things. The seeing of something for me is the blastoff point for a sequence of thoughts moving through my network of associations with quite a few twists and turns. This inner dialogue of preferences, aversions, judgements and assumptions is a hindrance to looking at things objectively.
A new practice is introduced in step 19 of Steps to Knowledge. The practice is to take a mundane object, and look at it. Just look at it. Just look at it without trying to come to any conclusions, without trying to make any inferences from what is seen. Spend 15 minutes in as pure observation as possible. Do that on two separate occasions.
There was a time when I took my children ice skating at a nearby hockey arena. I happened to find a hockey puck there, which I kept for no particular reason. I don’t play hockey, none of my children play hockey, and I don’t follow hockey very closely. I’m telling you this to tell you the object I selected for the first just-look-at-it exercise was the hockey puck. This hockey puck had a number of scratches on it, and I noticed that I tried to imagine how the puck got the scratches in the first place. That wasn’t observation.
The other mundane object I selected was a metal serving spoon. The observation was a little tricky, because there were objects reflected in the spoon, which I saw as I looked at the spoon. If I observed other objects reflected in the spoon, was I still observing the spoon? Perhaps I was observing the spoon’s reflectivity. I recall being not entirely clear about this when I did the exercise.
What did I come away with? Just looking at something is loving that thing. Everything in nature (including myself) will reveal its secrets to me if I look at it without trying to impose my thoughts and wishes on it.
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